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How can unmarried couples in Kent plan their estates?

As Kent residents may know, increasing numbers of people are living in committed relationships outside of marriage. Census data indicates that unmarried couples represent roughly 7 million American households. Today's non-marital households include young couples choosing to forego marriage, same sex couples, and seniors who are in late-in-life relationships following divorce or the death of a spouse. For partners in a committed non-marital relationship, the opportunities for avoiding probate afforded by legally recognized marriage are often not available, which makes thoughtful estate planning especially important.

Fortunately, there are estate-planning options for helping unwed partners provide for loved ones while maintaining financial independence. Although a will provides a good start toward ensuring that property gets passed to the desired beneficiary, unwed couples can help their loved ones avoid the complexity of probate proceedings by taking the time to set up instruments such as living trusts and domestic partnership agreements.

A living trust can help people avoid probate and can serve as a useful tool for separating the individual assets of unmarried couples from the assets they wish to hold jointly. A living trust can also be structured to pass assets first to an unwed partner and then to heirs upon the partner's death.

A domestic partnership agreement can serve as a useful tool both for estate planning and for establishing financial arrangements between unwed partners. Such an agreement can identify whether property is held individually or jointly, as well as specify each partner's financial responsibilities in the relationship. The terms of the agreement could help support other estate planning instruments in the event of a probate challenge, while also providing a framework for the division of property and debt in the event that a relationship dissolves.

Estate planning for unmarried couples involves some challenges not faced by married couples, but forming a comprehensive plan need not be overly stressful or expensive, and can play a critical role in providing for the well-being of a cherished partner.

Source: SmartMoney Magazine, "Financial planners are wooing the unwed," Charles Passy, May 16, 2012

Source: Investopedia, "Estate Planning Must-Haves For Unmarried Couples," Cathy Pareto, Feb. 23, 2012

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To speak with an attorney at Gellner Law Group about estate planning, probate, trusts, wills or tax controversy, contact our law office in Kent, Washington, today. You can call 425-336-2908 or send us an email. We provide representation across the entire Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

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